Last week, Christianity Today published Kathy Keller’s article Why You Should Raise Your Kids in the City. In it, she argues that the city is not only acceptable, it is a “wonderful place to raise children.”
Her premise is that “Because most Christians don’t think about the city as a great place to raise their family, Christians are moving into the city at a vastly slower rate than the rest of the world’s people.” While I can think of other reasons this might be the case, it is certainly a primary factor for many.
Mrs. Keller speaks from experience. For 23 years, she and her husband Tim, serve the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. They raised three sons in New York City. That certainly qualifies her as an authority on the subject, and she makes some excellent points. The perception of the city is not usually “family-friendly”, and this article helps dispel that myth.
What I find vaguely unsettling are some of the “Reasons to Love City Living” attached at the end of the article. Some that are merely misconceptions:
*you do things with your kids, rather than sending them out to play in the yard
In the country we do things with our kids AND let them play in the yard (what’s wrong with playing alone in the yard anyway?) Ultimately, this probably has more to do with parenting rather than location.
*great food in every restaurant—no bad meals
Because delicious restaurant-served food is essential to raising Godly kids. Take them to Golden Corral and you may forfeit their soul. (OK. Bad example. That may actually be true.) Obviously, Mrs. Keller hasn’t been to the cities I’ve been too. We have great food in the country, we just don’t always go to a restaurant to get it!
These aren’t all that troubling, just incongruous in an article intending to destroy stereotypes.
Other reasons are more troubling:
* you are able to process the sinfulness of the world, which is up close and visible in the city, with your children; they aren’t shielded from it until just as they are leaving home and you are no longer as much an influence in their lives.
What is insinuated here is that children raised in a less exposed environment will somehow be less than prepared for life. Again, I agree that a child can be raised well in an ungodly environment. The problem is in suggesting that it is inherently superior to do so.
* The best reason to raise kids in the city: they see young, hip, urban Christians in the church, new believers who have been there and done that and find Christ better than all of it;
Rather than being the best, this may be the most disturbing for me. First, it seems to elevate “young, hip, urban,” as necessary qualifications for a role model. Further it implies that the best (though not only) models for our children are those with a negative testimony. I fully understand the value of hearing a warning from someone who has “been there and done that.” I am not convinced I must live in the city to encounter those with a “past.” Nor am I convinced however that it is somehow more valuable than my children seeing someone who has been faithful to Christ their entire life.
Though Mrs. Keller acknowledges there are spiritual pros and cons for raising children in any region, all of this subtly hints at the latent elitism of evangelicalism’s current infatuation with cities (dare I call it urbanophilia?). It might also explain why I found this article or at least the concluding list vaguely unsettling. I’ve expressed my feelings on this trend in regards to ministry, and my feelings are the same for the family.
Neither urban, rural, or suburban is somehow superior. Our countryside may not be cool in secular terms, and we are a long way from hip and urban. But God has called me to serve in a rural area, and that is where I should raise my children for His glory.